If you have ever “judged a book by its cover,” you have let the first impression of someone become a lasting one. This story of two hunters pictures the importance of looking deeper into the pages of others’ lives, into the heart of the matter.
Many years ago, four people I knew planned a mountain goat and moose hunting trip to Alaska. They hired a bush pilot to fly them into the unforgiving Alaskan wilderness to leave them for an unguided drop-off hunt. For 14 days there was to be no means of communication with the civilized world.
This story concerns two of the hunters, one young man who had just turned 18 and a 64-year-old man who was filling in for one who couldn’t make the trip.
The young hunter was absolutely livid when he found out that one of the hunters had backed out. Instead of being happy about the hunting trip of a lifetime, he complained at length. The alternate was an accomplished hunter and the two men had only met once. Yet the young man felt he was too old for the Alaskan wilderness and certainly too old to keep up with a spry teen in top physical condition. Any wilderness can be dangerous, and a mistake can be fatal. Safety was the reason they planned to hunt in pairs. The men drew straws. To the teen’s disdain, he was paired with the older man. When I went to wish them well on the day of their trip, the young man called his partner a relic, over-the-hill, an antique, useless, ready for the rocking chair.
The bush pilot dropped the two off, and they set up camp. The young hunter was rude, hardly speaking to his partner. These two scriptures came to mind as this story was relayed to me:
Matthew 7:1-2, which says, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”
And Luke 6:37, which says, “Never criticize or condemn—or it will all come back on you. Go easy on others; then they will do the same for you” (Living Bible).
A hard way to learn a lesson
They left the camp that morning in pursuit of a mountain goat. After about a five-mile hike from camp, the old man spotted some goats on the side of a steep mountain. He allowed the young man to try for a goat, while he guided him to it with hand signals as he made the stalk.
He climbed high, fired one shot and bagged his trophy. The mountain was steep and the goat fell down the mountain a couple of hundred yards, coming to rest on an area of snow. The young hunter pursued his quarry, traversing down the steep slope. His partner frantically signaled him to stop. Ignoring the warning, he walked out on the snow.
The patch of snow gave way. Dropping 80 to 100 feet off the false ledge, he crashed into rocks and ice. By the time the old man made his way to him, things were pretty bleak. If only he would have heeded the advice to stop. One of his ears was almost torn off, and he had broken multiple bones, including ten ribs. He was hemorrhaging from his ears, nose and mouth and was laboring to breathe because of a punctured lung. As he drifted in and out of consciousness, he cried for the old man not to leave him. He didn’t want to die alone. His partner showed compassion on the man who treated him badly, following Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:43-44: “You have heard that it was said. ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”
The older man took all his gear from both packs and wrapped the injured man to keep him warm. To pass the time, he removed the goat’s head. It was too late in the day to make it back to camp, so he huddled with the injured young man all night. A grizzly bear made his way up to within 30 or 40 feet of them and claimed the rest of the goat. The old man said later he thought the injured man would never live through the night. But in the morning he was still alive.
A change of heart
He begged not to be left alone, so the old man made the decision to carry the 192-pound man, the gear and the goat head to camp. The trek included crossing a glacial stream. This was not only a tremendous physical accomplishment, but required unwavering determination on the part of the older man. He carried his partner into camp at 3 p.m. on the third day of the hunt. Never once did the rescuer complain, whimper or murmur. He followed the lesson of Philippians 2:14-15, which says:
“Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.”
Six minutes after their arrival in camp, the bush pilot made an unexpected stop after dropping off some other hunters in the area. The rescue was complete.
Recuperating in an Anchorage hospital for the next 2 1/2 months, the judgmental young hunter spent his time thinking how he had acted toward the man who had saved his life.
In the beginning, the 18-year-old hadn’t looked beyond the cover of the pages of the book. He instead chose to complain, criticize and condemn. He had resented the other man, found fault with him and believed he was unfit to be on the hunt. Being distracted by the cover of this man of 64 years, the young hunter missed the content and character of the pages within. It took a nearly fatal fall in the Alaskan wilderness for him to learn this important spiritual lesson. Never form an opinion based on outward appearances, but instead look to the inward man.
God gave mankind the Ten Commandments thousands of years ago so that we would know how to treat both Him and our fellow humans. To learn more about these laws of love, please request our free booklet The Ten Commandments.